Mindfulness Meditation Exercises and Techniques for Children
There are several mindfulness meditation exercises that can be implemented within a classroom, providing children with tools and techniques that they can utilize to enhance their mental wellbeing. Whether children could use assistance in harnessing their awareness, increasing mental focus, developing social-emotional skills, or reducing stress and anxiety, mindfulness meditation is a multifunctional practice that all youth can benefit from. Providing students with a variety of techniques allows them to choose a method which better suits their preference and needs, while making practices fun and enjoyable.
Mindfulness Meditation for Mental Health
Students are continuously learning, not only academically but within their social groups. They are faced with managing several subjects in school while simultaneously learning about the world around them. Social pressure, conformity and family life are all additions to the list of experiences a child must manage within everyday life.
Along with stress and anxiety, there are a number of common mental health challenges that we are becoming increasingly more prevalent in children. ADD/ADHD, anxiety and depression are all common causes for concern among parents and caregivers. Mindfulness meditation should not be used as a replacement for psychotherapy or whichever treatment method a child’s healthcare provider has suggested, but it does offer extremely useful tools to help a child learn how to work through their emotions.
Whether or not a child has experienced emotional or behavioral challenges, mindfulness meditation is beneficial for all children, implementing a reduction in stress and anxiety, more focus on awareness, learning empathy towards others, and contributes to a calmer and more peaceful environment.
Mindfulness Meditation Breathing Exercises
When children are experiencing a sudden burst of emotional energy, whether it be from stress, anger or surprise, they may become overwhelmed and often experience sudden changes in their breathing. The brain’s immediate reaction is to send oxygen throughout the body, preparing us to fight or flee from a perceived threat. This causes us to produce quick, short breaths which can lead to more stress and anxiety.
Simple breathing exercises can help children learn how to calm their nervous system and return to a more peaceful state of mind.
Here are a few quick and easy breathing techniques to practice by yourself, or with a child.
- Breathing shapes. Draw large shapes on a piece of paper. A circle, square, triangle, etc. Have the child stand over of the paper and blow air directly at it while tracing the shape you have drawn.
- Smell the flowers. Collect flowers or weeds from outside and have your child deeply inhale the scent of the flowers. See if they can hold the scent in for 3 seconds and release (exhale) for 4.
- Balloon breathing. Have your child place their hand on their belly and imagine that it is a balloon. Ask them to take a deep breath to fill their balloon with air and hold it for 2 seconds. Then have them release the air and feel the balloon deflate.
All of these techniques can and should be repeated a few times to allow the child to become familiar with deep breathing. After children become more familiar with these exercises, they become helpful imaginative tools to present in emotionally taxing situations. If a child is feeling overwhelmed and is noticeably taking short breaths, you can simply ask them to “smell the flowers” and they will have the ability to recall the flower exercise. This will assist them with deep inhalation, holding their breath and releasing. This breathing technique doubles as a fun activity as well as a tool to return to a more peaceful state of mind.
Mindfulness Meditation Movement Exercises
Mindfulness meditation techniques involving movement are very beneficial and much more enjoyable for children that have trouble keeping their bodies still. Because classrooms often have limited space for full range of movement for all children, chair yoga is a practice that keeps children in their own individual spaces while allowing them to be more mobile.
Having children sit upright in their chairs, fully extend their arms and move them in small circles for 30 seconds allows them to focus on movement in their upper body and the feeling within their arms. They should move their arms for a short period of time in a clockwise direction, then in a counter-clockwise direction. You may then present them with a reflection question such as, “Which direction did you prefer?” or “Do your arms feel heavier or lighter after completing the exercise?” This allows students to reflect on their internal and physical feelings of the movement.
These breathing and movement exercises are only short examples among the wide variety of useful practices in mindfulness meditation. They are beneficial tools for the enhancement of mental health within children that can be utilized throughout their lives. By guiding children through breathing and awareness techniques, they will be better able to work through their emotions and self-soothe.
To learn about Calm Classroom's mindfulness techniques, visit our homepage.